#100 – 909 Burrard Street (on Smithe Street)
T: 604 669 4298
Brief Description: Le Crocodile is a fine dining restaurant located in the heart of Vancouver. It offers superior French food in a traditional, yet unpretentious, atmosphere. Yes, you guessed it; this kind of dining comes at high cost.
Being a foodie is an expensive passion. A recent inspection of my bank statements shows that the vast majority of my salary is spent on food or eating out. Oops! For the most of part, I visit modestly priced restaurants but occasionally, B and I like to get dressed up and splurge on a more formal dinner. It was B’s birthday recently and I told him that he could choose any restaurant that he wanted, as long as it was on my “To Eat At” list for 2009 – hee hee! He quickly decided on somewhere that we had wanted to try for some time: Le Crocodile. I could feel my wallet shrivel at the decision.
A 22 year veteran of the Vancouver food scene, Le Crocodile is discreetly hidden off Smithe Street, close to the IGA on Burrard Street. Decorated in a traditional, sophisticated style, the restaurant itself is unassuming and away from the main foot traffic. Because of this I had expected it to be fairly quiet, even more so as we were there on a Tuesday night, but how wrong I was! It was packed, mostly with graduating students celebrating end of year with their proud well-to-do parents. Thankfully, we had reserved a table and so we were seated immediately. The woman that greeted us at the door was incredibly friendly and very sweet. Unfortunately, once we were seated we were basically ignored by our server for about half an hour. He did come over to introduce himself, to get us drinks and to tell us the specials but we didn’t even get to see a menu for about half an hour – apparently, they were all with other diners. Hmmmmm. This was not the kind of evening I had expected at one of the finer establishments in town.
By the time the server had arrived with the menus we had completely forgotten the specials, so he had to recite them to us again. Prior to our visit, I had been reading the menu on-line over and over again and so I had already made my choices but as there were so many tempting items on the specials list, I had to re-think my whole order. We both started our meal with appetizers. B decided on the Garlic Sautéed Frog’s Legs as he (nor I) had ever tried them and I chose one of the specials, White Asparagus with Dungeness Crab Meat.
Before our appetizers came out we were presented with a complimentary onion and salmon tart to begin our meal. With its delicious flavour and flaky pastry, it was a promising start to the meal.
The Frog’s Legs was a really interesting dish. The first thing I thought was “Wow! They really look like chicken wings!” Ha ha! The meat was actually very pleasant tasting, without a strong “meaty” flavour but with a lovely hint of garlic. The flavour was further enhanced by the chive butter sauce that the Frog’s Legs were served in.
My order of White Asparagus with Dungeness Crab Meat was quite good, although, not exceptional. The crab meat was delicately laid across the juicy thick asparagus. What I didn’t realize was how much it cost – $22. The server hadn’t mentioned the price of the specials (and yes, I should have asked). If I had known it was that much then there is no way that I would have ordered it. There were other tempting appetizers on the regular menu that cost a lot less than that, that I would have enjoyed as much.
Moving on to entrees and we both ordered the same thing from the specials menu; Caribou Steak with Lobster Tail. It was spectacularly presented – the Lobster Tail was perched high on a bed of tender Caribou slices. I thoroughly enjoyed the juicy Lobster meat and the Caribou was tender and perfectly suited the accompanying red wine sauce. However, the serving size of the steak was very generous and towards the end, chewing all that meat became a little too much for me. There is truth in the saying “less is more”. The Caribou was delicious; it just didn’t live up to our Caribou experience at Rim Rock Cafe in Whistler.
Next, on to my favourite part of any meal…dessert! Considering that we were at a French restaurant, naturally, I had to order the Crème Brulee.
Unfortunately, it was very average. I found it a little too heavy on the Grand Mariner for my liking and the sugar on the top wasn’t scorched enough.
Surprisingly, B decided to indulge in dessert and he ordered the Crêpe Suzette. His dessert was served with a small candle on the side and three staff members surrounded him and quietly sang “Happy Birthday”. Yes, they had made note when I made the booking and I was very impressed that they had remembered. It was a nice added touch and, thankfully, they kept it classy so it didn’t draw a lot of attention.
Final Thoughts: I had high hopes for Le Crocodile. It was one of the restaurants that I had highly anticipated a visit to and, sadly, I walk away slightly underwhelmed. Firstly, I was disappointed that a restaurant that offers fine dining couldn’t even offer debit service. As I don’t have a Canadian credit card, I had to leave the restaurant and duck into the IGA to use their ATM machine. Not exactly the effortless end to the meal that I was expecting.
I am on the fence regarding the service as I don’t want to jump to conclusions (perhaps it was just a bad night for them). When we had the server’s attention, I was impressed with the service. But I got the feeling that it was “out of sight, out of mind” as it seemed that he was forgetting us quite a lot. On the other hand, I was impressed with the small touches; the acknowledgment of B’s birthday, the small tart to start the meal and the cute little chocolate crocodiles that were delivered alongside the bill.
In regards to the food, I wouldn’t say that I was disappointed with the meal per se, I just felt like it wasn’t as special as I’d hoped it would be. All of the food was fine but I think when you are spending over $200 of your hard-earned money on a dining experience, then you want to be completely overwhelmed by the meal and we weren’t. That is not to say that I wouldn’t return. There were a lot of enticing dishes on the menu that I would love to try. Perhaps we will return but maybe just for an entree, not for a full three course meal.